So what exactly is Swimmer’s Ear and who gets it?
Swimmer’s Ear is an infection of the external ear canal (the space leading up to the ear drum).
- It’s caused by persistent water in the ear which lends itself to be easily scratched or irritated by any foreign object (cotton swab) or fingernail.
- This break in the skin can easily become infected.
- You don’t necessarily have to be a swimmer to get “swimmer’s ear”. Bathing can cause this if the ear canal is already scratched and prone to infection (common in children with eczema).
- Most common in the summer months because high heat and humidity promote this type of bacterial infection. Combine that with prolonged water exposure (such as swimming) and you have a perfect set up for this type of infection.
- Highest rates of swimmer’s ear occurs in children ages 5-9.
Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear
- The most common complaint is pain, especially when the ear is moved or tugged on.
- Can also be painful to chew because of the movement around the affected ear.
- Itching is another common symptom.
- Children may complain that they can’t hear as well (due to swelling and discharge within the canal).
- On inspection via otoscope, we see swelling, redness, and sometimes a white or yellow discharge.
- Once your child has been diagnosed with swimmer’s ear (otitis externa), his doctor will prescribe antibiotic ear drops to be placed in his ear canal.
- It’s important to complete the full course of these drops.
- Use over the counter pain reliever in initial days to relieve discomfort until drops start to work their magic.
- Your child should start to feel relief and symptoms improving within 24-48 hours after treatment has begun.
- Keep your child’s ear as dry as possible until treatment is completed. If needed, cover head with shower cap, or delay shampooing hair until treatment is completed.
- If your child must return to swimming before treatment has been completed (i.e. competitive swimmer), be sure he is fitted with proper ear plugs.
- Oral antibiotics are not indicated unless the infection is severe, or your child has a co-existing bacterial infection elsewhere.
Prevention of Swimmer’s Ear
- If your child has already had at least one episode of swimmer’s ear and is an avid swimmer, preventative steps can make a huge difference.
- Be sure your child dries his head and ears completely after swimming or bathing. Avoid sticking fingers in ear though, this can cause trauma to the ear canal.
- Have him tilt his head to each side, allowing each ear to drain completely.
- Use hair dryer on lowest heat and lowest speed if needed to dry water in the ear canal.
- Alcohol based ear drops (which you can find in almost any grocery store with a pharmacy section) can aid in drying out the ear canal after swimming.These should not be used in a child who has ear tubes.
- One last word on prevention: do not use q-tips for your child’s ear. Not only does this remove naturally protective wax from your child’s ear, it could cause damage to her canal and/or ear drum.
Has your child been affected by Swimmer’s Ear? Do you have any prevention tips you would like to share?Pin It